Families Moving Together: Increasing physical activity by targeting parents exclusively versus parents together with children
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The “Families Moving Together” study was a community-based education intervention designed to help parents work with their children to live a healthier lifestyle. The “WeCan!” curriculum, a community specific program offered by NIH, was chosen for this study because of the theoretical framework and alignment to Social Cognitive Theory. Sixteen families participated in an 11-week education intervention, which included four sessions designed to increase physical activity levels and improve exercise self-efficacy. Families were assigned to a treatment group, either the parents-only group (POG, n= 29), or the parents-children group (PCG, n= 35). Only parents attended the education session in the POG, while children and parents attended in the PCG. During baseline and post-assessment, participants: 1) completed self-efficacy instruments and self report activity questionnaires, 2) were measured for height and weight, and 3) were given a pedometer. The outcome variables for participants in the study included physical activity, body weight, and exercise self-efficacy. No intervention effects were detected for changes in self-report physical activity data, while the paired samples t-test revealed a small decrease in the pedometer readings from pre- to post-test for all participants. Independent samples t-test revealed no statistically significant change in pedometer readings for children in either group, and a small but statistically significant change in pedometer readings for adults between the two treatment groups. With regards to weight change, the children increased in weight from pre- to post-test while the parents’ weight status did not change. There were no significant changes in exercise self-efficacy for either group. Although results were disappointing, findings suggest that a family-based intervention may be effective for promoting increases in physical activity and weight maintenance in participating adults. The information obtained from this study can contribute to the development of sound strategies for family-based interventions. The increasing prevalence of problems related to low physical activity levels, including obesity and related diseases, suggest the continued need for research in this area. Limitations of the study included a small sample size, the short time frame of the intervention, and a lack of father involvement.